HANFORD — Emotions are raw this week as the Hanford West High School community deals with the death of an alumnus in a car accident Sunday. The accident has affected the school’s decision to go forward with a program directed to showcase the consequences of drinking and driving.
Although alcohol or drugs are not believed to be factors in the crash of 20-year-old Hanford resident Alexei Scissons, some say it is not the appropriate time to conduct what is known as the California Highway Patrol’s Every 15 Minutes program.
Every 15 minutes is essentially a reenactment of events surrounding a DUI car crash, said John Tyler, Hanford CHP public information officer. He said this particular program affects students beyond the accidents they see on the television news because it involves people they know and see every day.
The intricate program had been in the works for a while and was scheduled to take place Thursday and today at the school. On Wednesday, Hanford West Activities Director Joseph McMahon said the program was canceled because students were dealing with the real-life aftermath of losing one of their own past students.
“Our responsibility and main concern is the emotional and physical safety of our students,” Hanford West Principal Darin Parson said. “We thought it might not be the best time [for the program].”
The death of Scissons is not the only recent incident to occur involving Hanford West students. Last May, 17-year-old Hanford West junior Sierra Valenzuela died in an auto accident when the car she was a passenger in lost control while negotiating the curve on Front Street, just west of Jensen Street in Armona.
Due to the sensitive nature of these incidents, Parson said the school has counselors and psychologists currently available to students in need of any emotional support. He said teachers and staff are also readily available and willing to talk to any students as needed.
Tyler said Every 15 Minutes — which the CHP has been doing since 2000 — is “very powerful” and the way it is conducted is beneficial to students, but the effect on the Hanford West students may be too much for them to handle at the moment.
“The school is hurting,” Tyler said, adding the program “tugs on the heartstrings” of everyone involved and puts students through emotions they didn’t even know they had.
Tyler said he doesn’t know if the program is just postponed at the time or if it will be canceled this year. Parson was also unsure if the program would be done this year but said there are no plans to stop conducting the program in future years.
Parson said Hanford West has conducted Every 15 Minutes at least eight times over the years. He said the program has a “powerful and important” message that he wishes students will continue to experience when the time is right.
According to the CHP, Scissons was driving eastbound with two passengers on State Route 46 around 6 a.m. Sunday. The vehicle drifted into the westbound lane, hitting an oncoming vehicle.
Scissons suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. The passengers, who are both Hanford residents, were taken to Kern Medical Hospital. A 19-year-old male passenger suffered major injuries and a 16-year-old male passenger suffered minor injuries. None of the people in Scissons' car were wearing seatbelts, the CHP said. The 62-year-old driver of the other vehicle is from Holtville and suffered minor injuries.